What to Do When a Loved One Leaves Drug Rehab Early

Last Updated on September 27, 2021

There is never a good reason to leave drug rehab before fully completing a program, but unfortunately, it does happen sometimes. If you receive a phone call from your loved one saying he or she wants to come home, it might be tempting to give them what they want, but doing so would only hurt them in the long run.

It may have taken an abundance of effort to get your loved one into drug and alcohol rehab in the first place, so chances are, you probably don’t want them to give up before they’re done. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to understand why your loved one may want to leave drug rehab early and what you should and shouldn’t do in response.

Why Do People Leave Drug Rehab Early?

When a client leaves drug rehab before completing his or her program, this is considered a discharge against medical advice. There are many reasons why a person may choose to do this, even against the advice of treatment providers, family, and friends.

  1. The client believes drug rehab is too difficult.

Drug and alcohol rehab will not always be easy. In fact, high-quality drug and alcohol rehab programs are designed to challenge clients to grow spiritually and emotionally as they learn how to function without drugs and alcohol. In some cases, a client may feel overwhelmed by these challenges and instead of asking a counselor or peer for help, he or she may just decide to give up.

  1. The client is in denial and believes he/she does not need help.

You may have been able to convince your loved one to enter drug rehab in the first place, but that doesn’t mean that he or she is fully committed. Some clients may only enroll in drug rehab due to pressure from friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, this may also mean that the client is not convinced that they need help or even have an addiction problem. He or she may put up with the requirements of drug rehab for a certain period of time but eventually, they may become tired of playing along and decide that they’re done.

  1. Emotional outbursts.

Clients who are enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program are often asked to confront deeply-buried emotions and thoughts that are difficult to express. In doing so, some clients may find that they are unable to cope, and as a result, they become extremely angry, irritated, or upset. Clients may also be asked to face unpleasant truths about their decisions and actions towards others, which can cause an extremely emotional response. During times like these, drug rehab may be an unpleasant experience, and some clients may want to leave.

  1. The client is still experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

In most cases, the most severe withdrawal symptoms will subside during drug detox treatment. But sometimes psychological symptoms such as depression or anxiety may persist for months. If left untreated, clients may find it very difficult to focus on their recovery and remain engaged and motivated to complete their drug rehab program.

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  1. The client doesn’t believe the drug rehab program is working.

This is usually a result of unrealistic expectations regarding drug rehab and life in recovery. If a client is enrolled in a drug and alcohol rehab program that doesn’t meet their needs, they are much less likely to have a positive experience in rehab. This may cause them to believe that drug rehab just doesn’t work for them. The quality of treatment plays an important role in the overall efficacy of treatment and the outcome.1 This is why it’s so important to find the right drug rehab program for your loved one’s needs.

  1. The client believes he or she already has the tools and knowledge to remain sober and therefore, does not need to complete the program.

Research shows that good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length.2 This means a client who leaves drug rehab early is much less likely to maintain long-term sobriety. At Nova Recovery Center, every minute of our 90-day program is vital to the success of our clients. Although a client may feel like they have the know-how and tools to live an independent sober life, it’s very important that they complete the entire program. Leaving early could mean they miss life-changing conversations, essential coping strategies, and valuable time to put these strategies into practice.

The Risks of Leaving Drug Rehab Before the Program is Completed

Choosing to leave any type of treatment before it is completed is very dangerous and often leads to negative consequences for the client.3 Common risks include:

  • Missing out on valuable coping skills
  • Relapsing and/or overdosing
  • Having more difficulty quitting a second time
  • Physically harming themselves or others due to emotional instability
  • Losing the trust of friends and loved ones

How to Get a Loved One Into Rehab (Again)

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are several factors that encourage clients to stay in treatment.4 These include:

  1. Motivation to change
  2. Support from family and friends
  3. Outside pressure from an employer, the criminal justice system, family, etc.
  4. Appropriate treatment plans and services

If the drug rehab program isn’t meeting your loved one’s needs or they lack the motivation to change their drug-abusing behaviors, it may be difficult to convince them to stay in treatment.

Although you may be tempted to come to your loved one’s rescue and take them back home, it’s very important that you remain a source of constant encouragement and support for their recovery—even if this means encouraging them to stay in rehab until they complete the entire program.

Here are a few things you can do if your loved one tells you that he or she wants to quit and leave rehab early.

  • Remind him or her what is at stake. Sometimes a client may just need to be reminded why they initially chose to go to drug rehab and what is at stake. Maybe they are about to lose custody of their children, maybe they are facing criminal charges if they drop out of rehab, or maybe their spouse is ready to leave them. Whatever it is, calmly remind them of why they chose to go to rehab in the first place and help them gain some clarity.
  • Resist the urge to rescue them. Enabling behaviors will only harm your loved one and hinder their success in recovery. Instead of bending to their will, resist the urge to rescue them and let them either choose to stay in rehab or find another way home.
  • Don’t get angry or upset. It might be difficult to remain calm, but it’s important that you maintain a positive attitude and remain loving and patient. Encourage your loved one and let him or her know that things will get better if he or she just sticks it out in treatment.
  • Continue to encourage them. If your loved one has already left the rehab center, continue to encourage them to get back into treatment right away. Remind them that it’s never too late to overcome addiction and that completing their drug rehab program is the best way to achieve long-term sobriety.
  • Contact your loved one’s treatment provider. If you’re not sure how to respond, talk to your loved one’s counselor or therapist about the situation. Treatment professionals will know how to handle the situation and help you encourage your loved one to stay in drug rehab.

If your loved one has already left rehab early once or several times before, contact Nova Recovery Center today to find out how we can help. In some cases, our staff may be able to help encourage your loved one to re-enter treatment. In other cases, a professional interventionist may be necessary. We can connect your family with an interventionist who can help and we will always take your circumstances and financial abilities into consideration before we do so. Please call today to get started.



  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-effective-drug-addiction-treatment
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment
  3. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/583105
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-helps-people-stay-in-treatment
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